What Aretha Said (R-E-S-P-E-C-T)

I’m a little late to chime in on what happened to Canadian blogger Kelly Graham-Scherer who blogs at Don Mills Diva, but the journalist in me feels compelled to do so.

Like me, Kelly is a journalism school graduate. I graduated in 1991 from Western Kentucky University. I typed my Basic Reporting 101 stories on an IBM Selectric typewriter my freshman year. I realize this dates me and that some day my girls will equate this to mommy chiseling headlines for the student newspaper on stone (close to it, however, was the fact that I cut out headlines with an X-Acto knife) and heating leftover Domino’s pizza over an open flame I managed to spark by rubbing two rocks together.

Western’s journalism department was soon the recipient of a large gift from an alum and equipment was updated with new Macintosh computers.  I remember taking a current issues in media course my senior year and my professor telling us that some day people would read their news on computers. Computers? I didn’t even have an e-mail account in 1991.

The Times-Online in the UK lifted quotes from Kelly’s blog for a January article, “Danger online: Perils of revealing every intimate moment,” without her permission. The reporters never called or e-mailed Kelly to let her know they had quoted her directly from her blog. Kelly wrote to the Times Online editor and received a response from one of the reporters who co-wrote the piece who simply told Kelly that they never actually said in the article that they had interviewed Kelly. That response is ridiculous. Can you imagine if  it were acceptable journalism protocol to simply lift text from websites or press releases or other online sources and present them as accredited quotes from real live sources? I wonder if the Times Online would have been OK with lifting excerpts from a news or political blog?

I was recently interviewed by my local newspaper, The Tennessean, and the reporter handled everything professionally. She contacted me by e-mail after seeing my blog listed on a local blog aggregator and then set up a phone interview with me. Now I receive lots of press releases pitching products to review at Savvy Housewife. Sometimes I’ll publish an excerpt from a product website, but here’s the thing. I’ll preface it by saying, “from the XYZ product website.” I would never copy and paste from a website and present it as my own written material, even for something as trivial as toilet bowl cleaner.

I’m a big fan of print publications. I love the tactile feel of a glossy new magazine or hearing the rustling pages of newsprint, but I’m dismayed that lazy journalism and a bent toward the sensational and entertaining (I call it the Oprah-fication of media) is sucking newspapers into the abyss of “let’s take shortcuts to what sells.” The newspaper industry, like any other, has to make a profit. I just hope standards don’t fall by the wayside.

Check out Kelly’s Write on! Respect the blog button. And keep on writing.


  1. Melinda says:

    So, I’m an almost-journalism major of a later generation… and I totally agree with you.

    I would love it if a reporter chose to use my blog in a story, but I would FAR prefer that they ask before they start lifting quotes. Though there is a very good chance I would agree, it’s just a respect thing. Like Aretha said.

    Melindas last blog post..tweets on 2009-02-11

  2. Richie says:

    This reporter did make a big mistake in attribution for which she could apologize and even print a correction. A good journalist would do that.
    However, a mistake like this is far far from the reason that the newspaper industry is in trouble these days.

  3. Blonde Mom says:

    Melinda you’re kind of making me feel old with that “later generation” talk! I kid, I kid. Sorta. 😉

    I’ve never worked for a newspaper but have worked with journalists in the past when I worked in PR for a local university and so many reporters DO the right thing. I just want to clarify that.

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